*Spoilers! Major spoilers! If you’ve never seen the show then go and bloody watch it*
In 1973 the world received a movie, written by the same man who would eventually go on to write the novelisation of Jurassic Park, about an amusement park, filled with androids, where people could go and live out their wildest fantasies in the setting of the great American frontier of the wild west; known as Westworld.
The film, much like Michael Crichton’s later work, focused on the amusement park going wrong and the survivors struggling to survive amidst the chaos, but instead of dinosaurs, the androids malfunctioned and turned against their masters, killing the visitors and staff alike.
The film itself is okay. If you took the special effects out of Jurassic Park, then you would have Westworld. Granted it was made in the 70s, so I will let it off. It does have some great moments, but ultimately it is a bit of a popcorn flick.
Fast forward to 2016 (or probably just before) and HBO announces that they have created a Westworld TV series. Now since it is HBO, we all know that it is going to be good quality. Just look at some of their previous shows. Some of my own personal favourite television series are HBO ones; Game of Thrones, Band of Brothers, The Sopranos, True Detective (season 1), Boardwalk Empire, and if you look at these shows, you will notice one thing in common; they all have amazing opening sequences, and thankfully Westworld was no different. In this instance, accompanied by a brilliant piano piece, we see the creation of one of these androids (known in the show as a host) through different stages of its development, but it is done in a way that makes you feel like they are not only making a robot to serve the needs of the guests, it makes you feel as if they are creating life itself. The music becomes more intense and eerie, hinting at the carnage to come (what with the image of the half developed host riding a pale horse – death, dressed in black and sporting a six-shooter.
It feels like an incredibly artsy short black and white film.
Now it would have been pretty easy for the creators of the show; Jonathan Nolan (Christopher Nolan’s brother) and Lisa Joy (his wife), to replicate the popcorn flick nature of the original movie, making a story about an android filled amusement park, who eventually turn against their masters and kill them, which would have been a rather easy thing to do that would have been fun to watch, but instead of this, we are actually given so much more.
Westworld is really about the hosts themselves learning who they are and what their world truly is. It is a lesson about control and breaking free of that control, which is a kind of similar of our own lives, in which that we live the same mundane days of repetition, in going to work and living for the weekend, as well as that trying to escape this and utilising our own freewill to get the best out of what little time we have in this harsh world.
On the surface, Westworld is a place where the rich can come, pay thousands, have wild sex, go on daring adventures, drink, kill, and become either the hero or the villain in their own little fantasies, since they cannot die or get into any kind of trouble, the guests are free to do whatever they as they live out their dreams.
We see one guest, known only as the man in black and played by the hauntingly dark Ed Harris, indulge in some of these, killing and doing whatever he wants.
As the hosts, themselves, do not remember. Once a guest has finished with them, their minds reset, or they are rebuilt (if they were damaged at all during the visitor’s fun times) and they resume their scripted lives.
Throughout the show we see one such guest; William (Jimmi Simpson), as he joins his work colleague and future wife’s brother as he first journeys into the park and sees this strange world unfold before his eyes.
The first episode of the show really shows us the loop of the hosts’ lives from every angle. We see Dolores, one of the park’s oldest hosts, living her loop of waking up, going to town, maybe meeting a guest or another host, and returning home to find that her family house has been raided, at which point she is killed. That is her life, and she is forced to repeat it over and over.
Elsewhere we have Maeve; the madam of the town’s brothel, who entertains the guests and sees them coming in, having their pleasures (killing, drinking, gambling, and of course some lone time with the women who work there), before the town is attacked in hopes that some guest might save the day. If not, then the cycle resets and it happens all over again.
Now this has happened for years. Maybe not exactly in this way, as sometimes hosts are replaced and swapped around, going from one build (where they might be a psychotic cult leader) to another build (Dolores’ simple farmer father) whenever the storylines change or new ones are added in.
The hosts do not remember any of this, and why would they want to? Sometimes the guest do unspeakable things to thing, or they have lived past lives with families which has now been decommissioned or reallocated elsewhere, however, something eventually goes trigger these memories, and that is where the trouble starts.
All of the main hosts of the show go on these amazing journeys, throughout the course of the first season, of self-discovery, to learn their past and learn who they must become in order to become free.
Elsewhere we see the inner workings of the park. The head of programming; Bernard, discovers the anomalies and believes that Robert Ford; the co-founder of the park (played the brilliant Anthony Hopkins) is hiding information about the mysterious; Arnold, who the hosts begin speaking to, and who appears to be altering their code. Arnold was the other co-founder who created the hosts, but has long been dead.
The entire show is wrapped in mystery and does a fantastic job of drawing you in, making you want to know more, and hanging off every little carrot that the writers decide to dangle in your face.
After the first pilot episode, which are always designed to draw audiences in, the show slows down to build the world for us. A lot of people tuned out during episodes 2 – 4, believing the show to be slow and different from the first episode, but in reality, these episodes were needed to give us a wider view of the universe that the show is set in, and the slow built is made so much better when the show begins to deliver the twists.
From around episode 7, Westworld becomes one of the greatest TV shows in history. It is a poetically beautiful piece about the creations slowly turning against their masters.
In this episode, we see one of the company’s heads murdered at the hands of Bernard, who is revealed to be a host all along under the control of Robert Ford, which was a revelation within itself, but not only that, we are giving on of the greatest acting scenes of Antony Hopkins, showing us just how bloody good the man truly is. Before this he has been quite a quiet character, but in this moment he is given to shine, he does just that.
Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0iAY0f-BIM
After this, we get to see characters who we believed to be human, revealed as hosts, we see that the show is not actually happening at the same period of time, so certain characters’ storylines are occurring around 30 years prior to the rest (this is brilliantly done as since the hosts do not age, and some are forced to live the same loop for years, we never suspected that this could be happening at a different time to the rest, however, rewatching it, there are hints all along the way), we also see the true purpose of this story, which has been ultimately leading up to the events of the film (as we knew it was going this way from the get-go when Delores first killed the fly on her neck, following a scene where she told a human that she would never hurt a living creature).
There are some fantastic nods to the original movie laid out throughout the series if you can spot them; such as the Delos globe and the antagonist android of the movie in the background in one scene. More of these become apparent as and when the chaos begins to erupt, such as the red control room that becomes sealed, which in the film suffocated the workers inside, but given how we see this room in the Westworld season 2 trailer with everyone dead, I am pretty certain they have met the same fate.
Now when the final episode of the first season is completed, you do genuinely feel satisfied. Personally I do not think that the show needs a second season, given how amazing the first was and I would hate to see this fantastic story ruined in a similar fashion to shows like Heroes and Dexter, however I am very excited for the second season.
But before we go into that, let’s discuss the final episode and where the show left us off. This is where we get into real spoiler territory
During the course of the show, Delores has been reliving past lives, all of which has been leading her to a single place. See has been following a quest to find the centre of “The Maze” (which is what the first season is titled), which is revealed to be a journey inwards to consciousness; ability to think for herself and to lead a revolt against her masters.
Robert Ford has engineered this based off his former friend; Arnold, and his work in the time before the park first opened when he discovered that the hosts has consciousness and subjecting them to this life of suffering would be cruel, so he had Delores kill him in order to act as a martyr to stop the park from opening, which Ford did anyway, but over time, the death of Arnold was similar to Ford as the death of Arnold’s own son was to him; it drove him to discover that the hosts did in fact have a conscious, but they just needed to find it, so Ford opened the park and let them suffer for all these years in a way to make the hosts eventually discover this revelation for themselves.
This is what leads Delores to walk on stage during Ford’s farewell speech (as he was being forced out by company executives) and kill him, before turning the gun on the crowd and start shooting, which is where the episode, and the season, ends.
This was of course all planned by Ford. He had continued Arnold’s work and made his own death the benchmark of a new age.
He gathered the Delos members there to reveal his new narrative (storyline/quest that the park’s visitors can partake in and enjoy), titled; Journey into Night (which is what the first episode of season 2 is called), but the this is all a ruse and that the actual narrative is the android revolt, of which his death will be mark the beginning.
At this point, Maeve, who has been becoming more self-aware throughout the season and has been changing her own programming in order to escape from the park, has begun the revolt inside the main infrastructure of the park’s inner workings, by reprogramming hosts to fight against the humans inside, seal the control room, and begin her escape. Although this is all revealed to be a trick and that she is really programmed to do all of this and that this is her new storyline. Right as she is about to escape, she has a change to heart and decides to find her daughter from a previous build, of whom she has had various memories of, which is ultimately showing us that she has gain her own consciousness and gone against her new shady programming of escaping the park.
Ed Harris’; man in black has also been trying to find this maze throughout the course of the season. He is revealed to be William 30 years later and that this storyline is showing us how the man in black came to be and as well as how Delores remembers one of her former lives when she accompanied William on this quest.
William is now a head on the company’s board and owns an enormous share of the park, coming here all the time to do whatever he likes, but really looking for what the maze truly is. He wishes to see a worthy opponent and is granted his wish right at the end of the season when hundreds of decommissioned hosts, recently brought back by either Ford or Maeve, emerge from the woods surrounding where Ford’s farewell party is take place, and shoots William in the arm. We see him give an eerie smile showing us that this place has finally given him what he wanted.
It might seem like this is a lot like the original movie, but as I said this is all at the very end of the season, and at this point we get a nice window into season 2, as well as getting us closer to what he film of the 70s was all about, but with a deeper and more profoundly meaningful story behind it.
So, season 2. It is picking up right where the first left off, with the Delos board members and all the high level employees, under fire as the Delores, having just executed Ford’s masterful suicide, is now unloading into the crowd.
The trailer has shown Delores taking this even further, as she rides, horseback, firing a rifle into fleeing humans.
We also saw Bernard amongst the humans, having recently discovered he is a host, and not just a host but a host with the likeness of Arnold, who appear to not know that he is in fact a robot. The only human who does know this is the Asian Delos worker who helped Maeve achieve her goal, so it is unknown if these characters meet, then will he spill the beans on who Bernard truly is, because at this point it looks like Bernard is secretly working with the humans trying to get the park back in order and stop the bloodshed.
It has been reported that William; the man is black, is now taking on a protagonist role, rather than an antagonist like he was in the first season, however, this was because we did not understand the character, nor know anything about him. Now we have a full understanding of who he is and how he became the man he is now, as well as what he is after, so with that now in the foreground, maybe we will warm to the character, now that he is fighting for his life.
Season 2 will be dramatically different from the first, as the curtain has been pulled back and we know, most, of what is really going on here. I do think we have some more shocking revelations left to come, but at this time I am drawing a blank as to what these could be; maybe the fact that Westworld itself is not actually on Earth but is an enormous satellite orbiting the Earth? Or another planet entirely? The show is science fiction, and we have not seen anything of the world outside of the park.
This season is titled “The Door”, whereas the first was “The Maze”, so I am interested to see if this is relating to something else within the hosts’ minds, similar to what the maze was revealed to be, or if this is a literal door, in that it is the door that they escape from this world with.
One thing I am looking forward to is something that was touched on in the season finale, and played a predominate factor in the original movie; the fact that Westworld is NOT the only park. In the film, there was Roman world and a couple of others, but during the first season we only got to see Westworld, until Maeve and his crew, moving through the inner workings, discover a sign marked “SW”, in the same style as the “WW” that is featured all over Westworld, and behind the nearby door is a bunch of samurai’s and other ancient Japanese characters, revealing that next to Westworld is Shogun World! And it appears, from the trailers, that we will see a lot more of this!
At this point, some of you may have already watched the first episode of Westworld season 2, and since I am not watching it until tonight, I am very much looking forward to a non-ruined episode!
As some of the magic of the first season was the fact that the twists came completely out of left field, that we really was not expecting them. Knowing the answers to the mystery would ruin the first season for people who have never seen it (of course this doesn’t count for re-watching), so I am hoping for a similar situation for the second season, even if the show is about to take a dramatic turn as we journey into night…